Spiritual Needs for Older Adults
Spirituality is one of the dimensions of wellness. Even though the definitions of spirituality are disputed and still evolving, the basic concept is that spirituality is being connected to something greater than a person, searching for meaning, and having personal values that guide your actions. Over the past decade, the interest in spirituality, especially for older adults, has increased, mainly with the notion of successful aging from the 1990s McArthur Research Network on Successful Aging (Lavretsky, 2010). According to this aging concept, spirituality and religious partaking are very much interrelated with positive, successful aging, like exercise, proper diet, and social connectedness.
Additionally, there is overwhelming evidence of favorable health outcomes linked to spirituality and religious participation. For example, spirituality can improve seniors’ quality of life with dementia, decrease mortality and morbidity, fewer strokes, and causes less pain from illness like cancer (Lavretsky, 2010). Further studies have shown that spirituality reduces the risk of suicide, heart disease, and overall health (Lima et al., 2020). Moreover, another benefit of spirituality in older adults is the strong sense of community. Most adults, as they age, become at high risk of being isolated; besides, they also begin losing their spouses and loved ones. These losses can cause depression and loneliness (Lavretsky, 2010). However, spiritual groups help people form relationships where there are opportunities for social interactions. Such social bonds prove comforting and essential, particularly during difficult times.
As a social worker, I would support my older clients’ faith and spirituality by learning as much as possible about the clients’ theoretical or other spiritual concerns (Francoeur et al., 2016). Knowing how my clients’ spirituality affects their well-being will be critical in improving my ability to design services and treatments with the highest potential for helping them. Additionally, this would help me better understand my clients and make them more inclined to participate in our services and treatment plans consistently. Having differing spirituality or faith with my older clients would not be challenging because I have been trained to convey acceptance, be open-minded, and provide a safe space for all clients. My job is to separate what I believe from my client’s beliefs. Besides, imposing my beliefs on my clients would be unethical because they differ from mine.
Francoeur, R. B., Burke, N., & Wilson, A. M. (2016). Social workers’ role in spiritual care is facilitating coping with chronic illness and self-determination in advance care planning. Social Work in Public Health, 31(5), 453-466.
Lavretsky, H. (2010). Spirituality and aging. Aging Health, 6(6), 749-769.
Lima, S., Teixeira, L., Esteves, R., Ribeiro, F., Pereira, F., Teixeira, A., & Magalhães, C. (2020). Spirituality and quality of life in older adults: A path analysis model. BMC geriatrics, 20(1), 1-8.
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Please review the readings and consider the following in your response:
*What are some benefits of spirituality/faith for older adults?
*As a Social Worker, how can you support older adults with their faith or spirituality?
*Could there be any challenges if your spirituality/faith differs from the clients you are working with?
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